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Plan playgroups bridge the gap in education

Children in playgroups get a head start in preschool education.Photo courtesy of Plan staff.
Children in playgroups get a head start in preschool education.

Photo courtesy of Plan staff.
April 7, 2010

Plan’s early childhood development programs have reached thousands of children across Senegal, giving them a head start in preschool education.

Currently, there is no state intervention in Senegal in the education of children under 3 years old. What’s more, primary education starts between ages 6-7, and preschool education is not free and therefore out of reach for many families.

Critical development stage

Yet the absence of a formal education until a child has at least 3 years old can have a negative impact on their development.

“Scientists have shown that this age is a critical stage in children’s development,” said Dr. Ismailou Kaba, a Plan early childhood care and development (ECCD) specialist.

But Plan’s integrated ECCD project ‘PROCAPE’, designed to bridge this gap, is being carried out in 50 villages in Louga and has already seen the creation of 50 playgroups hosting 2500 young children.

Health, nutrition, education and protection

The foundations of the project are health, nutrition, parental education and protection, and the children carry out activities such as songs, lullabies, nursery rhymes, games, jumping and races.

“These activities help cognitive development,” added Dr. Kaba.

Pregnant women and children from 2-3 years old have the opportunity to attend, as do children from 0-23 months accompanied by their mothers.

In the village of Mbédiène, the small playgroup building is decorated with toys donated by Plan, as well as cardboard puppets, paper maché and paper chains that the children have made during playgroup, all designed to stimulate and enhance this development.

“The children couldn’t do this before,” said Mbaye Ngom, an ECCD facilitator in the community.

"A matter of early care"

“We teach the children about health and education,” said Bigue Ndiaye, one of the 3 volunteer mothers at the playgroup. When asked about what motivates them, she said she does it out of good faith: “We do it for the children.”

Amsatou, the president of the volunteer mothers of the rural community in the village of Keur Mayib, said “Now, children wash their hands before eating – they refuse to eat before washing their hands. They even make their parents wash their hands!”

“By watching the children in the village, I understood that all is a matter of early care. There is a clear difference between the children that go to the centers and those that don’t.” – Village Chief, Keur Ibra Louga.

Plan Senegal is establishing more centers across the country to support existing ECCD programs in Kaolack, Thiès, St. Louis and Urban Dakar. 

Learn more about Plan's work in Senegal and ECCD.